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Archive for the ‘Business Issues & Education’ Category

How Online Customer Preferences and Feedback Has Changed.

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Sometimes looking at a big company and their marketing strategy can teach us a lot about marketing our small business.

Apple Co. is no doubt a big company. They are known for their innovation and ‘cool’ gadgets. Every launch of a new product involves a presentation by Steve Jobs. Their products are sold in the millions in the first few days (iPhone 4 sold 1.7 million in 3 days) because they create such an anticipation and smart marketing campaign. What do they do that makes them so successful?

Looking at their last few launches a pattern emerges. Not only does Steve Jobs do all the presentations, not only he wears the same clothes no matter what weight he’s in, there are some things we can all learn from the big boys, with their cool innovations, the advertising budget and the PR firm. We can do it too, on a smaller scale.

When Steve Jobs does his presentation he is concise, to the point and entertaining. He does not concentrate on the technical aspect of the new product. He doesn’t talk shop – how fast it is, how the components became smaller. What he does talks about is what their new product will do for you, the customer. How will it improve the way you communicate or do business. If a customer wants to know the specifications of their new gadget he can go to their web site and get that information. Steve jobs is talking to the average customer to show him how cool is the new product and how fun it is to use.

When thinking about marketing and advertising, think about your customers first – how will they benefit from it, what needs your product comes to satisfy.

  • Create a buzz. That is what Apple does best. Months before the product launch they drop a few words here and there. Obviously not every company is as highly regarded as Apple, and not every launch is a topic of conversation on the big news networks. Creating a buzz before the launch is very important. Every company that is serious about their marketing can do it through websites, social media and bookmarking sites. Don’t wait until the product is completely finished. When you create a buzz you can get feedback about what people want and think your product will be. Monitor those conversations, see what customers really want.
  • Create a product customers will be happy to show off. When you look at Apple’s products, not only the components are important the packaging is important as well. It is always slick and new (think iPhone, iPad, iPod.) Apple always innovates, jumps ahead in leaps and bounds, not only evolves from model to model. What can you do to your product to make it as sleek as possible, something others will be proud to share? How do you show it on your website?
  • Get expert advice and recommendations ahead of time. Show your product to the titans of your niche and have them write a few words about it. Put it on your website and tweet about it.
  • Take pre-orders. This is a must and a base to build on. Even if you are not sure yet about the final price, you can create a following you can e mail to and update on pricing and new features. A business woman I know created a buzz by tweeting about her product when it was still in the building stage. She got 150 preorders just in the first few days. The product is not finished yet.
  • Make a big deal out of your launch – as big as your budget allows. If not a presentation in a big ball room, you can create a launch on the web. Make sure your speech is short and entertaining. Leave the technology to the experts.

The bottom line – when you are about to launch a new product, plan the launch months before the actual date. Think what information you want to release and when, think how you can maximize your exposure and don’t hesitate to turn to experts in the field to help you plan it correctly.

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You have your products ready, and your services are in place. Your brand image is ready and your marketing collateral is all written, designed and printed out. You now need to target your preferred demographic, your target audience and the niche your small business will occupy.

Nearly every product or service is aimed at a specific demographic group that will be interested buy it. As a small business, you need to do some market research to determine your sales demographics and establish a target audience.

If your product is something that a wide range of customers will use, you will need to create various marketing campaigns to reach different segments of this broad market. Then there are products and services which have a fairly specific target audience which need to be zeroed in using a more specific manner. This is called niche marketing and if done properly, can be very beneficial and cost-effective.

How do you determine your market niche? Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What should be the age of your potential customer?
  • Who would be more interested in your product, a man or a woman?
  • If your product is pricey, what income level should your potential customers belong to, preferably?
  • If your product requires it to be used in a certain way, what is the education level of your potential customers?
  • Is your product something that will be used by a family or an individual?
  • What will your customers appreciate the most about your product? Its price, easy availability, or ease of use? What do they like or dislike about the product or service in general?
  • Where does your audience research for products? Do they use the Internet, newspapers, books, or television?

Based on the results of your marketing research, you should be able to determine the focus of your advertising and marketing efforts. If you happen to find that your potential clients spend are frequent users of the internet, likely that your best marketing lever would be a Web page or an e-newsletter. Again, if you find that your potential customers are interested in listening to talk radio, you would do well to develop promotional strategies that revolve around radios.

Your audience might change too, depending on various factors. It’s always important to keep on top of who your target audience is. Do this, and you will maintain a steady flow and easy returns. Another great visibility technique.

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Promoting a Small Business Without Breaking The Bank

How do you promote your small business while staying afloat? All you need is a little ingenuity!

The classic promotions options are print, television media and direct campaign. You might think that all these options will cost money, and that you need a large budget to get your message across. Without spending an incredible amount of money, you can attract customers, and have ready to use custom recorded video content for future use, as follows:

  • Cut costs by using your own employees in place of models for print and television Ads. It’s more believable and you stand a better chance of being noticed and remembered.
  • Obtain a database of email address and send your company’s information with links to your site via emails for direct campaign.
  • Put up your promotional videos on your website, with additional content and offers that people can read and watch. Always make sure that your website loads fast, and don’t use too many graphics and heavy content that might slow down the experience for your customers.
  • Spend a little to ensure more traffic to your website. With more traffic you can usually expect more sales.
  • Use social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter to advertise your products and services. Even though too many companies are doing this nowadays, you can still garner eyeballs if you package your company’s identity realistically.

What you need to do is to combine guerrilla marketing with traditional advertising strategies to gain exposure and get paying customers by letting the current technology work for you instead of against you. Create interesting and entertaining under 3 minute videos and post them on your site; while you’re at it, you may as well upload them on video sites such as YouTube. Most video sites are free; by posting your videos online, you can create exposure for your company.  Make sure that your video titles contain keywords that are commonly searched by people.

Focus on your demographic; who do you want to target? If you know this already, well and good. If not, consult a good advertising agency to help you define your correct demographic. When you’re on a budget, focusing on your exact target audience will get you more paying customers.

Optimize on television broadcasting by purchasing media time in any locality on any cable network. By doing this, you can run a local cable television advertising campaign in many different cities at the same time. For example, if you know that most of your customers live in large cities, focus only on them. By doing this you can bring down your advertising budget. A national television campaign is way more expensive than a cable TV campaign, and is not as effective either.

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The world is divided into two equally powerful entities today; one is the real world that we live in, and the other is the virtual world, or the world of the internet. Getting your business known and noticed in the virtual world can boost your brand identity recognition and your sales to unforeseen heights, depending on your marketing strategies. So how to put your small business on the virtual map?

The first thing to do is to set up your professional corporate website and incorporating e-commerce to increase the value of your business. However, this alone will not result in an implicit increase in the enterprise value of your business.

What you will need to do is leverage the Internet to increase your sales and profitability, thereby increasing the value of your business. With over a 1000 million people online in the world today, and trillions of dollars transacted over the internet, you can sense the presence of a staggering opportunity.

When you put yourself on the virtual map, you are in effect completely eliminating geographic barriers. With one step, you reach a wider, more diverse audience. A properly marketed Web site can be a very effective means of reaching new and existing customers and expanding your geographic presence. Here are a few tips:

  • Get a smart, professionally designed website designed for your company.
  • Place your logo prominently on all pages.
  • Place brief but informative and useful brochure ware of your company so that your potential customers, vendors and partners get an idea of who you are.
  • Use search engine optimization tools to ensure that your Web site appears at the top of search lists when someone looks for a product or service similar to what you offer.
  • Make sure your site prompts visitors to input comments and feedback. This way, you can capture the information of existing and potential customers to support the efforts of your sales team.
  • Ensure that your website allows a safe and secure online purchasing experience. Use the best payment gateways and incorporate every possible security signatures that you can afford. When you allow customers to purchase your products or services online, you can more than quadruple your sales output.

By allowing people to shop online at your Web site, you can reduce your sales staff and other overheads. Imagine what this can do to your business’s bottom-line.  Putting up your brochure content on your site can eliminate the need to print expensive brochures and other collateral materials.

Retain your customers and build customer loyalty by offering customer contact and support online. When your customers’ requests are attended to via real time chat, or email follow up, there’s greater satisfaction and trust in your company.

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Are you a small business owner wanting to market your products or services without breaking the bank? If you are, you must read this article.

Customers are attracted to businesses that have a polished, professional image. They often make snap decisions about who to do business with based solely on their image and presentation.

So what does a smart image do to your business? Firstly, it gets you noticed; specific image aspects such as a well designed logo have excellent recall value. So a smart image gets you remembered. That’s two shots in one – a great impression and excellent recall value.

Investing in great corporate brand identity image helps you in two ways; it makes your small business look larger than it is and also sets you apart from the competition. What looks to be fairly simple such as unique logo, an attractive website or appealing business cards will help to establish your business’ brand identity and define its role and services in the marketplace.

So what does a smart image consist of? A well-designed, colorful and yet to-the-point logo that represents your company’s products, services and business ideals is a start. This should be followed by smartly designed business cards with the same logo prominently printed on them.

A smart business card:  You can design and print very professional-looking business cards for a low price in order to attract new customers and ensuring that your existing customers know how to get in touch with you.

A smart corporate logo: This is an absolute must if you want to be noticed and remembered. Remember, a picture is better than a thousand words.

A well-designed website:  You might wonder exactly why you need this. The world is becoming very web-centric, with more and more shoppers researching products and shopping online. When you have a smart website in place, you will instill confidence in potential customers. Your website must have a consistent look and feel and must contain your contact information, along with your business hours. It would be great to also have the names of the people who can be contacted for specific services. You can use your website to sell your products online; if you do this, ensure a safe secure shopping experience for your customers.

Hand out freebies: Everyone loves it when they get something free. How about gifting your customers small things such as pens, key chains, and mobile phone pouches and so on branded with your corporate logo?

If you don’t have a dedicated art department or marketing team to create your brand identity, here’s some good news. You can easily develop professional-looking logos and business cards using fairly cheap online services.

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The writing is on the wall; we are moving from reading books printed on paper to eBooks read electronically. That has become the reality for publishing companies and book sellers. Following the example of the music industry, you either adjust or you become obsolete. What the iPod and iTunes did to music distribution, smart book sellers are doing with the written word. Amazon came out with the Kindle, Sony with its E Reader, Apple with the iPad and Barnes and Noble with their Nook.

On October 4, 2010, Barnes and Noble launched its new service, Pubit! that takes care of the other side of this issue – publishing content electronically.

Pubit! allows authors to upload their work to the site and have access to millions of readers. Authors can self-publish books they have written, short eBooks, articles, short story collections or poems and make them available for sale through Barnes and Noble e-book store.

With a free and simple set up and registration process, books can be uploaded, including the cover and artwork and be available for download for less than $10.

When registering for their service the author enters into a partnership with Barnes and Noble. Every work is prices from $1.99 to $199.99, and every sale proceeding is split between the author and the publisher following a clearly spelled formula:  B&N gets 40% -65% of the proceedings, depending on the length of the publication and its popularity. There are no hidden fees, and no upfront costs. The author is able to track sales and payments through their site.

This is a very important partnership since Barnes and Noble has over one million titles in their online e bookstore, and millions of visitors.

Unpublished writers can now get published, E-books have another venue, poets and artists can be discovered by popular demand rather by the tastes of the publisher’s team.

What makes Pubit! even more exiting is the fact that Barnes and Noble went a step further than having it ready to be read on their Nook. They are offering a free e-reading application that enables readers to download and read books on other platforms as well; PCs, iPhone, iPad and Android smartphones. They are making the content readily available, accessed from different platforms, without cost to the authors.

In the same way YouTube provided a platform for people to display their video work and get noticed, Pubit! Is attempting to change the publishing world and allow people from all walks of life, that have been writing ‘to the drawer’, to get published, noticed and become successful by popular demand.

This opportunity also opens the door for hundreds of consultants and coaches allowing them to stretch the hand of social media from helpful advice to expert publications.

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